The commemoration was organised by the SNV, which said it was honouring the Croat and Serb residents of Voćin and neighbouring villages, western Slavonia, killed in December 1991.
That month, withdrawing from Croatian soldiers in the Voćin area, Serb paramilitaries killed 47 Voćin villagers and three Croatian defenders.
Speaking at the memorial to the Croatian victims, SNV president Milorad Pupovac said it was one of the worst crimes in the 1991-95 Homeland War that would be remembered for its “bestiality and brutality.”
He expressed “strong and deep regret” for the “unprotected” victims who had “no evil thought for anyone,” adding, “The people who did this stopped being human and thereby our compatriots.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić’s special envoy for cooperation with Croatia regarding the war missing, Veran Matić, said the Voćin crime marked the crimes that would ensue in the following years.
“Even 30 years after those horrible events, I have the feeling that we have lost a lot of time and failed to do a lot that could have been done in dealing with our evil past,” he said.
Those gone missing in the war are proof of the fact that we have failed to find a way to successfully deal with our past and to agree on and cooperate in healing our societies, he added.
“Some of the people who inspired this crime still have a platform for hate speech and they use it unimpeded. Our task is to stop such rhetoric and not to allow such speech so that the victims, their families and our societies can rest, and as a guarantee that crimes will not happen again.”
Matić also said Serbia and Croatia should continue to look for the disappeared even though 30 years have gone by.
Pupovac, Matić and local officials also commemorated Serb civilians from western Slavonia killed between 1991 and 1995.
“We are here today to reiterate our commitment to cooperation in shedding light on the fate of the missing, both those gone missing in this area 30 years ago and those gone missing in later years in other parts of Croatia,” said Pupovac.
He added that “cooperation in the search for the missing leads us from hostility to partnership, from nurturing feelings of war to developing feelings of peace.”
Responding to questions from the press, Pupovac said this year’s commemoration in Voćin was a step forward as both Serb and Croatian victims were honoured.
Asked why no one from Croatia’s state leadership was present, he said it was not the time to reprimand anyone, other than those responsible for the crime.
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